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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Fresh produce is the albatross around grocers' necks — it's got a razor-thin profit margin, it spoils quickly, and illnesses can prompt public hysteria. But now, they hope blockchain is a solution.

What's going on: IBM is using blockchain to track the journey of a bunch of spinach from the farmer to the shopper's cart. Knowing, and trusting, the vegetable's precise origin will reduce cases of people getting sick from food, IBM says.

How it works: In a blockchain, a network of computers creates a record of any string of events. That allows it to track anything from transactions to food. No middleman is involved, which blockchain enthusiasts say increases trust between parties.

For example, if a single bag of spinach infects someone with E. Coli., shoppers will stay away from any and all leafy greens for weeks, even months, until they're confident they won't get sick.

  • Using blockchain to track that bag means determining exactly where the contaminated spinach came from, instead of sending the entire industry into a whodunnit panic, says Brigid McDermott, who leads IBM's blockchain food-tracking arm.

Food is also perishable — another big headache for retailers. Blockchain may one day solve that too, McDermott says.

  • Sometimes you buy fresh berries, and they only last one or two days. Maybe that's because they were exposed to heat a little too long.
  • Recorded transactions on a blockchain might reveal, in real time, that the berries have been left out in the sun in an Arizona facility, at which point the retailers can make the decision to divert to a store within Arizona instead of shipping them out to Florida, says McDermott.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
11 mins ago - Economy & Business

Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

CES was largely irrelevant this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.

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